Red Bull KTM's Cyril Despres won the eighth stage of the Dakar Rally, but Repsol KTM's Marc Coma, who finished second to Despres, continues to lead as of Sunday, January 11.
The stage victory went to Despres who finished one minute and 49 seconds ahead of Coma, with local hero Francisco Lopez (KTM) third at 2:56. Yamaha’s David Fretigne, and KTM riders Jonah Street and Pal Anders Ullevalseter all ran into problems, allowing Despres to move up two places to third overall. Despres is now less than 30 minutes from second-placed Fretigne in the overall standings. Coma continues to maintain a lead of 1:06:28 over Fretigne. He also has a 1:33:34 lead over Despress.
Kaestle KTM's Alain Duclos had his best day of the rally so far, finishing fourth at 12:39, with Jordi Viladoms fifth at 13:12.
Despres said, "We were riding on something like a smooth white [clay] and there wasn't much grip. I tried to stay standing up the whole time, shifting my weight back when braking and then moving it to the middle when accelerating. At refueling, I saw that I had come back on Marc and that Fretigne and Street were losing time. Towards the end, Francisco really attacked and that suit me fine, as I wanted to put as much time between me and the guys behind me. Moving up to third has really given me a boost."
"It was technical today like an Enduro," Coma said. "There wasn't much grip and it was difficult to maintain a good pace without out-braking yourself. Although it was challenging, it was fun to ride."
American Jonah Steet, who had earlier in the rally won stage five, withdrew from the rally after re-injuring his wrist.
"I'm sorry I can't go on," Street said on his team’s website rallypanam.com. "I'm bummed for all the hard work that has gone into this, and for all the enthusiasm from rally fans around the world. It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but it is the right one for the team and for me and my family. It was a dream come true to win a stage, and hopefully, we'll be back next year to continue what we started."